Realizing you have an adrenal gland problem is only beneficial if you know how to correct the problem, otherwise you’re just going to be more stressed knowing you have something wrong with you. Dealing with this issue can vary greatly depending on the severity of the problem. If high stress levels have only been causing adrenal gland problems for a short period of time, then there may not be much involved in correcting the hormonal imbalance. But if stress has been chronic and lasting many years, then resolution is often very involved and can take some time to fully recover.
Steps to Improve Adrenal Gland Function
- Daily stress -> Though often easier said than done, lowering stress to the best of your ability is a great way to aid in adrenal gland recovery. Decreasing work commute times, making more efficient use of your time, working with people you enjoy working with, and being around positive and influential people will only benefit the health of your adrenal glands and of course your overall health. Sure you may not be able to get rid of a troublesome boss or immediately cut work hours, but managing stressful aspects of your life to the best of your ability will only bring positive results.
- Diet -> Diet plays a huge role in adrenal gland health. Limiting or eliminating sugars and caffeine will help the adrenal glands recover faster. Interestingly enough, sugar and caffeine are the two major substances that people crave when their adrenal glands are stressed. Although these foods are not terrible to consume in moderation, (low moderation that is), at the very time when your body desires them is the same time when you shouldn’t be consuming them as they will fuel the stress cycle and only further hinder your impaired adrenal glands.
Protein is also essential to help aid in the recovery of adrenal gland dysfunction. I believe that a person should consume approximately 1.5grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. So a 125 pound woman would need 85 grams of protein a day. This protein should be high quality protein – grass fed beef or other meats, poultry, eggs, undenatured whey protein, and dairy if tolerated.
Many holistic physicians and nutritionists often advise eating many small meals throughout the day to sustain blood sugar levels. I used to think this, but now I do not subscribe to this philosophy. Eating multiple times throughout the day only fuels the problem many have with blood sugar dysregulation. That’s why people who eat this way always need to eat and they never correct the problem. I teach my patients to eat three to four times a day – a lot of protein and healthy fats – to sustain normal blood sugar levels and help heal/correct hormonal imbalances. Check out the Paleo-Type Diet for more info.
- Exercise -> Exercise can have a positive or negative impact on the adrenal glands depending on intensity and duration. Too much high intensity training (HIIT workouts) eventually will take their toll on the body and especially the adrenal glands. Those participating in long distance training, such as endurance events, (marathons, for example), are at greater risk of adrenal gland dysfunction. More “true aerobic” exercise, rather than cortisol-secreting anaerobic exercise, will help with adrenal gland recovery. For more on this check out the Sock Doc Training Principles.
- Sleep -> Restful sleep will work wonders for healing fatigued adrenal glands. Ideally you should be going to bed (to sleep) around 10-11pm and for most, sleeping 7-9 hours. Sleeping eight hours from 11pm to 7am is much more beneficial than sleeping from 2am to 10am. It’s all about that circadian rhythm that we’ve discussed previously. Lots more on sleep here.
- Nutrients and Supplements -> There are many products on the market which claim to help a person recover from adrenal gland dysfunction. Some of these products contain adrenal glandular substances, (derived most often from a bovine (cow) source). I caution you on such products as many of them are not regulated by any outside agency and they can, and often do, over-stimulate the adrenal glands, especially if used for a prolonged period of time, even just several weeks. Yes, many people claim to have abundant energy taking such products, but they’re simply stimulating the adrenal glands in an unhealthy manner much like if they drank coffee all day long.
The hormone DHEA should also be used with caution. This product is still easily available to purchase at almost any “health food” or nutrition store, often in very high doses of 25-50mg. I only give DHEA to my patients when I have a confirmed lab test verifying such low levels and most often I prescribe 5-10mg a day for just a few weeks. More is not better when it comes to hormones, though so many look for a quick fix pill that provides energy and claims of a youthful appearance. DHEA is even put in many cosmetics today to help give a youthful appearance to the skin. You should be careful taking any hormone especially ones laced in creams, lotions, make-ups, and other cosmetics. Typically if you stick with natural products you won’t have to worry about hormones in your products. Dr. Haushka and Andalou Naturals are two great companies for natural cosmetics.
Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, and B5 can be beneficial for adrenal gland function. Typically with vitamins there is no harm in taking them for short periods of time at low doses, but of course it is very difficult to figure out which one(s) you may benefit from. B-complex supplements tend to have too high amounts of too many vitamins, and correcting an imbalance of one or two vitamins often doesn’t happen when you take massive doses of them all.
The adrenal glands store a lot of vitamin C, more so per gram than any other organ in the body. Therefore, vitamin C may help aid in adrenal gland recovery as it’s depleted as cortisol is secreted. However, I never use the traditional ascorbic acid which most vitamin C products on the market are. Vitamin C is best taken in a natural, non-synthetic form with all its co-factors and enzymes rather than the isolated, often GMO corn-derived ascorbic acid.
Eating organic fruits and vegetables can greatly help heal the adrenal glands. Get your vitamin C from fruits and your minerals and vitamins from vegetables. Zucchini and squashes are great vegetables to consume for adrenal gland health because they contain high levels of naturally occurring salts – fuel for the adrenals. Put some kale or spinach in your fruit and protein smoothie and make yourself an adrenal gland health shake.
- See a doc -> Finally, seeking out a holistic doc may be your best option when it comes to figuring out what to do to help resolve your health issues. As discussed earlier on, most conventional doctors will not address adrenal gland dysfunction as they feel like these glands aren’t an issue in any health problem. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and holistically-trained physicians are often your best bet when it comes to helping you figure out and heal your adrenal glands (and often many other health problems too).
This concludes the four-part adrenal gland article. I hope you learned a lot and I’d love to hear your comments!